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More and more pets are left behind by emigrating pet owners in Hong Kong because of complicated and costly procedures, some still try their best to stay with their furry friend despite the difficulties.

By Hannah Tang

Well-planned and willing to spend, Nicole Li* and her family left Hong Kong and moved to Britain with Bailey, a two-year-old corgi.

Having settled happily since August 2022, Li noted the family began finding ways to leave with their dearest pet once her husband successfully secured a job transfer within his company from Hong Kong to Britain in late 2021.

“Due to the rapid changes in politics, economics  and even the education  system in Hong Kong in recent years, there were many uncertainties we saw when planning our future,” Li says, adding the family insisted on leaving Hong Kong together with Bailey.

Noting that pet emigration involves lots of procedures and documents and the family was busy with work at that time, Li says it is worth paying HKD$66,000 (USD$8,435) and several thousand dollars of incidental fee to a pet relocation agency.

“It was not easy for sure, but I treat Bailey as my child. We are glad that she came here with us without any separations,” Li says.

Bailey moved to London, Britain in August 2022.

“Honestly, it would be quite stressful if we didn’t find the agency,” she says.

The agency provided the family with vet visits and helped arrange a Cathay Pacific direct flight for Bailey, and most importantly, got the signed health certificate from the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).

Li points out that if a pet owner can do every single procedure on his or her own, the cost can be just one-third of hers.

“I truly understand the difficulties of emigrating a pet, especially the divergence in opinions among family members,” Li says, adding that pet owners should try every means to emigrate with their pets.

“I will always call Bailey as ‘she’ not ‘it’, she is our family, so do other pets in other families”

In recent years, many Hong Kong people are leaving the city. Some choose to or are forced to abandon their pets.

According to the Census and Statistics Department, the city’s population fell from 7.52 million to 7.29 million from the end of 2019 to mid-2022.

A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2022 indicated that, among 705 interviewees aged 18-year-old or above, 28.4 per cent intended to emigrate and the top push factor was the “excessive political disputes or unstable politics”.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes it has seen an increase in pet abandonment cases amid the recent emigration wave.

“In 2020/2021 alone, we received 377 animals surrendered to us by their owners,” the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) stated on their Facebook page.

Still, many Hong Kong people are willing to spend time and money to leave the city with their pets

Like the family of Li, Marsha Yeung* and her husband are glad to relocate with their pets.

They moved to Canada in May 2022 with two cats, Fuji and Goji, both two-year-old, after more than two years of pre-emigration preparation.

Fuji and Goji moved to Vancouver, Canada in May 2022.

“It is good that Fuji and Goji could fly to Canada with us in the same plane so that we can look after them during the flight,” Yeung says.

Air Canada allows fully weaned cats and small dogs in the cabin. Yeung paid HKD$1,200 (USD$153) for the seats of her two cats.

Fuji and Goji’s departure from the Hong Kong International Airport in May 2022.

She also spent another HKD$2,600 (USD$330) for rabies vaccinations as required by the Canada government.

“Fuji and Goji were in our emigration plans at the very first stage as they’re part of our family. You never leave them behind, just as families having human kids.”

“If we’re not able to bring along Fuji and Goji, we wouldn’t have emigrated,” she adds.

The Hong Kong Society for Abandoned Animals (HKSAA) founded in 1997 amid the city’s migration wave in the 90s, points out that the decision of abandoning a pet may cause severe consequences, and it may even cause the death of the pet.

HKSAA has also received a significant increase in requests for assistance on how to bring pets along with them to other countries.

Holding the motto “Never Kill Never Abandon”, HKSAA suggests pet owners to be aware and make sufficient preparation beforehand in regards to the varied regulations among countries, also to seek a legal and proper channel to bring their pets abroad.

HKSAA encourages owners to try bringing along the pets with them. Owners could reach out to the association for emigration procedures consultations and pet emigration service providers referrals .

Life expectancy of pets can be 10 to 20 years. The association strongly recommends owners of senior pets to stay and accompany their pets for the rest of their lives.

“If owners are not able to bring their pet together, they ought to help settle down the life of the pet before leaving and ensure the life quality of the pet,” the association says.

Table 1 Britain and Canada’s policies on pet immigration
1. No restrictions imposed on the exportation of pets from Hong Kong unless they are endangered species according to the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
2. Specific terms and conditions are imposed for different species in different countries.
3. Official website version shall prevail.

*Names changed at the requests of the interviewees.

Edited by Lily Wang

Sub-edited by Fiona Dongye